Frelimo splurges as poverty rules
It was billed as a celebration of socialist revolutionary triumph, but when the ruling Frelimo party marked its 50th birthday this week Marx came a distant second to money.
Reflecting their anti-colonial, revolutionary roots, Frelimo leaders pointedly chose a venue in the untamed corner of Southern Africa where half a century ago guerrillas launched the uprising that would lead to independence from Portugal in 1975.
But, beyond the symbolism of the location, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, the obligatory use of "Comrade" and the AK-47 rifle that still adorns the national flag, everything at the party congress pointed to the huge wealth accruing to the political elite that holds sway in the fast-growing energy producer.
The venue itself was a lavish complex of VIP reception rooms and cavernous dining areas, set amid a village of apartments, two banks and a hospital clinic for 2 000 guests.
Just to the north lies the Rovuma Basin, where US energy firm Anadarko and Italy's Eni are exploring some of the world's biggest untapped natural gas reserves - an estimated 3.85trillion cubic metres, or enough to supply Western Europe for over a decade.
To some of Mozambique's 23million people, all the talk of "revolutionary war" from President Armando Guebuza, the Frelimo leader - known as "Mr Guebusiness" on account of his huge commercial interests - rings very hollow.
"It is absurd to spend [R65-million] on a week-long conference when people are starving a block away," said Rudiger Franck, a hotel owner and Frelimo party member in Pemba, the run-down seaside town that hosted the seven-day jamboree.
Under Guebuza, Mozambique has attracted foreign mining investment that has lifted economic growth to 7% a year and in 2011 made Mozambique's currency the strongest performer against the dollar.
Brazil's Vale has poured $2-billion into a coal mine in the northwestern region of Moatize and plans to invest $6.4-billion more.
Frelimo says that all Mozambicans will benefit but in a country in which the average income is $400 a year the opulence of its congress sends a conflicting message.
"The money never reaches the people. It remains in Frelimo's pocket," said Mustagibo Bachir, a Cabo Delgado member of parliament for Renamo, Frelimo's foe during a 16-year post-independence civil war.
Bachir sees a worrying precedent in the handling of the ruby and timber sectors in the north, which remains one of the country's poorest regions. "Our people still don't have access to water, food or jobs," he said.
Frelimo is facing opposition from the upstart Mozambican Democratic Movement, run by the 48-year-old mayor of Beira, Mozambique's second city with a population of half a million.
Analysts say elections due in 2014 are too soon for the MDM to make serious headway but point to its popularity with young, educated and unemployed Mozambicans as a sign that it could become a force to be reckoned with.